Bulking up is an issue many slim beginners struggle with. There is so much to learn about the fundamentals of adding muscle mass, it is no wonder so many gym newbies find it a daunting prospect.
However, there are some essential basics that once mastered will see pounds of muscle added to your physique regularly. The most important aspects of bulking is:
This is the main hurdle that hard gainers and ectomorphs suffer from when first starting out, they simply don’t consume enough of it. The amount of food required on a bulking diet can seem overwhelming to those used to smaller quantities. But such surplus is required to provide an optimal anabolic environment in your body for growth. Let’s look at the basics…
Kcals, or calories, are the measurement of energy contained within our food. You eat food and then your body burns it as fuel. It is used for brain function, organ function, immune support and notably for us gym goers – tissue repair.
But how much do we need? Well, a typical adult male will need approximately 2500kcals and a typical adult woman 2000kcals per day, to maintain a healthy weight. You might think that seems achievable, but if you want to bulk up, you’re going to need to up the calories. Why? Because you will need that extra energy for muscle growth.
The size of the surplus required for bulking varies greatly per individual. If a lean bulk is your goal, a 500kcal surplus is a good starting point. Throw in regular training and hit your daily protein targets and the scales should soon start moving in the right direction.
However many individuals have a higher calorie requirement than the recommended figures. Those with active jobs, particularly those working in manual labour, simply adding 500 calories may not cut it. Individuals with physical jobs can require upwards of 3500kcals per day to maintain their weight.
However, as with everything bodybuilding related, it is not quite that simple; you need to make sure your getting your calories from the right source. Kcals are broken down into three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. As they are easily converted into energy they are a top choice for fuelling metabolic processes. Without enough carbs, people may experience lethargy, difficulty concentrating and general weakness – something best avoided when trying to finish your last rep with perfect form!
On a bulk, aim for 40% carbohydrates, 40% protein and 20% fat. This works out at around 300g of carbohydrates, 300g of protein and 80-100g of fats. If 300g of protein seems unrealistic, don’t worry. You can still bulk effectively on 150-200g per day, just remember to eat an extra 100-150g carbs.
Once you become familiar with the concept of bulking, there are more advanced methods you can try. For example, you may want to try a 100% lean bulk using the keto diet – essentially a zero carb diet that forces your body to burn fat as its main fuel source.
Or perhaps you’d like to follow the example of Mr Olympia competitor Lee Priest and try a ‘dirty bulk’, consuming many thousands of kcals above your daily requirements, followed by an aggressive cutting diet.
Stick with it
Once you have your diet in place and follow a heavy lifting gym routine, your physique will change drastically. If you’re struggling to get enough protein, or overall calories, try taking whey protein or mass gainers for a boost. And finally, be consistent – building your dream physique is a marathon, not a sprint.